Building and managing work relationships is an interesting dynamic that you will encounter on a daily basis until the day you retire. There are unique personalities, different experience levels, and different work styles all at play at the same time. Combine that with rush deadlines, overlapping detailed projects, and ever-growing client requests and it’s amazing that we can “click” with others in the office and build powerful and efficient teams.
At E Group, we focus on creating connections with the people who make your business thrive. That focus can be geared towards your employees or clients, but in either case, there is always a focus on building authentic and meaningful relationships. While my main focus at E Group is creative marketing and brand strategy, I also focus on team building, culture development, and the fostering of positive relationships at work.
I took a look at some of the core principles of building a relationship – trust, flexibility, opportunity, appreciation, and communication. I then analyzed how each of these principles changes based on who you are trying to build that relationship with. Don’t worry, I’m not going to dive into personal relationships, but I’ve provided insight specifically on building relationships in an office.
1. TRUST: Build bridges with your team members.
PEER TO PEER TRUST
I’m a glass half full kind of girl, and I innately trust people and assume the best of them until proven otherwise. Because I trust in people, it enables me to quickly build strong relationships with colleagues and when push comes to shove, I know I can count on them to help me out when I need it.
EMPLOYEE TO LEADER TRUST
Gallup research shows that 96% of engaged employees trust management. Trust of leadership is essential to the operation of the company. Employees need employers that are consistent and transparent.
LEADER TO EMPLOYEE TRUST
A recent Interaction Associates study called Building Workplace Trust states that “trust fosters innovation and investment in new projects”. An employee who is trusted to do their job and not micromanaged will be far more invested in the success of the project than one that has to check in with every move they make. Yes, this is within reason, you can’t turn a new employee loose or an employee within a proven track record of mishaps. But it can be an opportunity to do some additional training or create a development plan to hopefully get them on the right track.
TRUST IN YOURSELF
It takes courage, it takes enthusiasm, and it takes confidence, but you can be your biggest motivator. Trust in your talents and capabilities. You are amazing, otherwise you wouldn’t be where you are. I had a mentor tell me once that I was the one holding myself back. Not that I wasn’t doing a good job, but that she knew I was capable of so much more, I just needed to trust in myself. Good news, she was right. Managing work relationships starts with you and the trust you hold in yourself.
2. FLEXIBILITY: Seek balance and harmony with others.
PEER TO PEER FLEXIBILITY
Everyone works differently and on their own schedules, so building relationships in an office means you must accept these differences. Just because a job task is a high priority to you, doesn’t mean your colleague can drop everything to instantly help you. Try to keep this in mind when sharing a workload or asking someone to help you with a task. If there is a hard deadline at play, let them know, but try not to get frustrated if you see them working on another task and not yours. Give them the flexibility to balance your project with others and trust that they will meet the deadline that was given to them.
EMPLOYEE TO LEADER FLEXIBILITY
The same applies to leadership. Whether at a large or small company, chances are leadership has more than a few things on their plate. While your request may be important, it’s one in a line of hundreds that senior staff are sorting through on a daily basis. Try and prioritize requests, add specific subject lines for easy reference, and when possible try and remain flexible about the response time. Don’t flag every email as high importance or it will stop having meaning. Save it for the times when you really need an immediate response from your leadership.
LEADER TO EMPLOYEE FLEXIBILITY
This is an area that some leadership may struggle with. Give employees flexibility with their work and their schedules. If they get their work done on time, ultimately does it matter where they do it or what time of day (with the exception of when an employee is handing secure or classified information)? In an age of technology and connectedness it’s very possible for an employee to be fully productive and responsive while not sitting in the office from 9-5. Some large companies have even turned to this alternative work model full time. Employees are required to meet deadlines, answer emails quickly, and bill a certain number of hours per pay period, but they do it on their schedule from their chosen location. The exception of course is attending meetings, but that can also be done virtually. This flexibility can help achieve a work-life blend with employees and leave them feeling refreshed instead of burnt out. It’s unfortunate, but according to OECD’s Better Life Index, the U.S. places 32nd out of 36 countries that achieve a work life balance.
FLEXIBILITY FOR YOURSELF
This doesn’t mean you should practice your downward dog pose, but it does mean that you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself. There is enough stress in our daily lives, don’t put added pressures on yourself to answer every email the minute it comes in or work every night so you are always several steps ahead. Find your own system that helps you achieve balance, and it will keep you more engaged overall. Take a look at these 8 Elements of Wellness at Work that can help you achieve a work-life blend and harmony overall.
3. OPPORTUNITY: Open the door, it’s knocking.
PEER TO PEER OPPORTUNITY
“That’s not my job,” is one of the most frustrating phrases I’ve commonly heard in my career. While it’s important to have defined job roles, it’s also important for there to be crossover. Give a colleague the opportunity to train for one of your job roles and you create more flexibility for yourself, a backup in case of an emergency, and a learning opportunity for your colleague. This also serves as bonding time, ultimately helping to build strong relationships with colleagues. Wins all around.
EMPLOYEE TO LEADER OPPORTUNITY
Speak up. Sometimes you are lucky enough to have opportunities fall into your lap, but most of the time you have to speak up for yourself and make it known that you would like to pursue new opportunities within the company. This proactive take can strengthen your work relationships pay off in a big way. You will be at the forefront of management’s mind when it comes time to assign that new big project or client.
LEADER TO EMPLOYEE OPPORTUNITY
Part of your job as a leader is recognizing your employee’s strengths and having the ability to delegate work to them. A.K.A. give them opportunities to shine and grow. A global employee engagement study from BlessingWhite consulting firm indicated that 26% of employees said that a lack of opportunities for growth in their career was their biggest reason for leaving a company.
OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU
This goes back to trust and having self-confidence, but if there is something of interest to you, or that you are passionate about, let others know. Then align yourself with people or projects within the company that can help you work towards those goals. In the same BlessingWhite study, 15% of those surveyed indicated if they weren’t passionate about the work, or it didn’t utilize their talents, they would consider leaving their company.
4. APPRECIATION: Realize the power of a thank you at work.
PEER TO PEER APPRECIATION
Thinking back to some of the biggest work victories you’ve had, are you standing by yourself or was there a team of people there along the way that helped you achieve success? Chances are at least one person helped you climb that mountain, and it’s important to recognize how your colleague helped you get there. Harvard Business Review interviewed Francesca Gino and Adam Grant about their research on gratitude and generosity. The study found that recipients of gratitude offer additional help fifty-perfect more often than those who are not thanked. That's an amazing response rate, and it proves that appreciation for coworkers truly matters and helps strengthen your work relationships.
PEER TO LEADERSHIP APPRECIATION
You know the old adage, “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”? You never know their story. So you may feel that you don’t get recognized enough for the work that you tirelessly put in, but what about your senior leader? How often do you think someone thanks them for keeping everything together and making all of those impactful decisions? Chances are not often. Like parenthood, it’s often a thankless job. It’s important to always take a moment to recognize their support and efforts.
LEADER TO EMPLOYEE APPRECIATION
Making sure your employees know that they are valued should be at the top of every manager’s list. The power of a thank you at work can be felt throughout an entire organization. Towers Watson sites that 43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week compared to only 18% of employees with low engagement. Not sure how to get started? Take a look at these Ways to Show Gratitude in the Workplace. And if you don’t already have a recognition platform in place, or if it hasn’t been updated in years, consider working with an engagement agency like E Group to implement a new one that is focused on highlighting values and behaviors through rewards, recognition, and social participation.
Or as Tom and Donna would say, “Treat Yo Self.” You work hard, so reward yourself! Recently, our office closed early as an employee thank you for all of our hard work. Could I have run errands, cleaned the house, or paid my bills with that extra time? Absolutely. Did I? Nope. Instead I treated myself to my favorite lunch place, took a walk in the park, bought a nice shirt, and got a pedicure. I work so hard every day in my daily life both at work and at home and so rarely take time or money to do something nice for myself. Appreciate how amazing you are and take a moment every once in awhile to “treat yo self.” Trust me, you will be glad you did! Then you can get back to your regularly scheduled program with a relaxed smile on your face.
5. COMMUNICATION: Learn the basics.
This is one area where there is a lot of overlap no matter who you are trying to communicate with in the office. It is also one of the most important principles to help you strengthen your work relationships . Studies show it’s helpful to model communication styles off of the Seven Cs of Office Communication. Be clear, concise, concrete, correct, coherent, complete, and courteous.
The bottom line is, when you are trying to build strong relationships with colleagues and leadership, it may not happen overnight, but hopefully if you approach your team with these points in mind, the results should be positive and lasting. And if you’d like some ideas on ways to engage with employees, reach out to an engagement agency like E Group.